2014: International Sister Cities and Partners
In 2014, less than two years since the initial Digital Trade Mission, our group has grown to over 200 people on both sides of the Atlantic who are actively engaged in supporting the Austin-Hackney relationship.
In the past, nurturing of the Austin Hackney relationship was very much an informal process as the community networks were forming and new people were coming on board. 2014 brought more focused partnerships and projects.
The driving force in each community remained with the same two single volunteer individuals who had met in the shadows of the official mayoral signing of the Friendship Cities Agreement a year earlier. In Austin, that person is Fred Schmidt, a local small business entrepreneur and involved community leader of European heritage.
In Hackney, that person is Duncan Ray, a part-time member of Hackney Council staff and local creative talent.
Together with a loose network of supporting colleagues, Fred and Duncan led the organization of missions in each direction, centered around conferences – and they persuaded others to join them. As individuals who continually receive requests to host visiting professionals throughout the year, they give tirelessly of their time and networks to connect visitors with like-minded people in their home community.
In Austin, Fred coordinated many activities with staff of the City Of Austin’s Economic Development Department. The department also includes the offices of Cultural Arts, Music, Film, as well as other functions which the City views as key to its success as a vibrant top-rated community. Fred also coordinates activities with the British Consulate in Houston and the regional office of U.K. Trade & Investment.
In 2014, the Austin network evolved include active representation from dozens of tech and creative companies, including Austin Community College, The University of Texas, St. Edward’s University, various non-profit and civic organizations, several Chambers Of Commerce, and many individual citizens who have some sort of interest in or background with London or the U.K. in their past history.
In Hackney, Duncan is supported by several colleagues within the Regeneration Services office of Hackney Council who view building international relationships of this kind as key to continuing to bring new opportunities to their Borough. After years of being considered among London’s most socio-economically challenged neighborhoods, Hackney has recently found a measure of success and opportunity through the migration of a creative class of entrepreneurs and technology startups. This has led to the area being dubbed as the central hub of a broader “Tech City” concentration in historically deprived East London. Leaders from across the community have joined Duncan in building the relationship with Austin – the first “formal” initiative of this sort – seeing this as a gateway to bring important new recognition and opportunities to
Thus far, the Austin-Hackney relationship and exchanges have been entirely self-funded by participants without the direct financial assistance of any government agencies, grants, etc. Hackney House Austin during SXSW was underwritten, in part, by several kind sponsorships from Hackney area businesses, creative agencies and their clients.